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The Quest for Becket's Bones: The Mystery of the Relics of St.Thomas Becket of Canterbury Paperback – 1 Jul 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (1 July 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300068956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300068955
  • Product Dimensions: 24.9 x 17.2 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 661,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
Thomas Becket, the thirty-eighth Archbishop of Canterbury, was born in Cheapside, in London, in about 1118. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Sept. 2004
Format: Paperback
Until now, all I knew about Thomas Becket was that he, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was killed by several of Henry II's knights, and the only real mystery was whether or not Henry actually meant the words literally when he expressed a desire to have Becket taken care of. This is an utterly fascinating book, replete with images of the Canterbury Cathedral and vintage art pieces depicting the murder of Becket. The text itself is well-written, impeccably organized, and never dull for one moment. As it turns out, Becket's murder was just the beginning of the story, one that imparts much insight into the history of England itself.
History tells us that Becket, a good friend of Henry II before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, was talked into returning from exile in France only to be brutally murdered soon thereafter, in December 1170, in Canterbury Cathedral itself by four knights of the king. He sustained serious head wounds, and one of his murderers even pried out some portion of his brain and scattered it upon the floor. The next day, his body was buried in a marble or stone coffin in the Chapel of the Holy Trinity at the eastern end of the crypt; while the body was moved temporarily at least once to guard against theft, Becket's relics basically remained in this spot for the next fifty years. In 1220, the relics were moved to a shrine in the Trinity Chapel, and pilgrims came in droves to see the holy relics and to seek miraculous cures (and there apparently were some). Then came Henry VIII and the Reformation. In 1538, he ordered all religious shrines and relics destroyed, including (and especially) Thomas Becket's relics, at the hands of the Royal Commissioners for the Destruction of Shrines.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Sept. 1997
Format: Paperback
Everyone knows where Becket's bones were from 1170 until 1538 -- in the shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer's pilgrims were on their way to see them... In 1538, commissioners of Henry VIII destroyed the shrine and, many assume, Becket's bones as well. But the contemporary accounts are ambiguous at best... In 1888 a shallow grave was discovered in the Cathedral crypt containing bones that seemed to match the description of Becket. They were even arranged in the makeshift casket in a way similar to descriptions of the arrangement of the bones in the shrine. Were these Becket's bones? And if they were, what would be the impact on the English church of the re-discovery of the relics of England's greatest Catholic saint -- one who died defending the authority of the pope? It sounds like a novel, but it is all true. This is a well-written, even handed account with a maximum of scholarship and a minimum of sensationalism (but just enough to keep you interested). Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By imogen on 6 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought the hardback from Marketplace & must admit that, although the subject matter interested me, I probably wouldn't have taken a chance on it at its full price. But now I can say that it would have been well worth the full price. What you fear with this kind of topic is that it's either going to be as dry as dust, or the author will be talking to you as though you're an idiot, or it will be highly speculative with "glamourous" theories introduced to attract readers.

In fact, it's very thoroughly researched but highly readable & absorbing. First of all, the author recaps on the story of enough detail for those who may not know it or whose memories may need refreshing, but not in too much detail as to drive anyone (whatever knowledge or lack of knowledge they may have had) to despair. He then relates how the varying theories of what happened to Becket's bones evolved over the years. I think this is where you really see the quality of the author. I read the book when I was convalescing &, so, prone to tiredness, but I never once lost track of the thread(s). He has a great way of gently reminding you who has thought what & why & what role they played in the development of the arguments, but it never seems intrusive or repetitive &, indeed, you do get a good idea of how their personalities & the context of the times they lived in influenced their attitudes.

The last section deals with the various possible theories themselves.....what speaks for & against them & the author's view.

It's the very best of this kind of book, in that you feel as though you want to contact the author & carry on the conversation you feel you've been having
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